A Report from the Gainesville USM National Convention

May 7th, 2015
Gainesville, FL

Day One

A committed and dynamic group of organizers from the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and other activists from the white community (from Sand Diego, CA, to St.Petersburg, FL and other locations throughout the country), converged on Gainesville,FL for our 2015 National Convention, entitled, “Break the Silence: Refuse to be Complicit: A call to white people to stand in solidarity with the Black Liberation Movement.” National Uhuru Solidarity Movement Chair, Jesse Nevel had spent the previous month in Gainesville with local USM Chair, Dianne Tornay building for this event through outreach tables, public events and speaking out at a local police/ city council forums, raising the call for reparations at every opportunity, and winning deep support from local organizations and individuals.

Over the course of two days, this core group of activists forged a national steering committee with an iron fisted will to carry out a dynamic calendar year of events and campaigns to build a movement of white people in absolute unity with reparations, liberation and self determination for African People. This determination came as a consequence of several life changing presentations and panel discussions, and work shops about the nature of colonialism, parasitic capitalism, and the role of white people in the African liberation movement.

Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People's Socialist Party
Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party

Chairman Omali Yeshitela gave the keynote presentation and detailed the history of black struggles for independence and dignity in Gainesville, FLorida, and throughout the world in the early days of the Uhuru Movement.He took the audience back to 1966 when he was an organizer for SNCC and tore down a racist mural which once besmirched the lobby of city hall in St.petersburg, and to 1968 when a sanitation worker’s strike took on a militant character following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The Chairman found himself the first target of Florida’s new, ” intending to incite a riot” (a thought crime) law, while in Gainesville at the time, leading demonstrations through the organization, JOMO.

Chairman Omali upheld the legacy of APSP co-founders, Gainesville school teacher and activist, Katura Carey, and Naples based migrant worker organizer and Black Freedom fighter, Lawrence Mann, as well as the 1974 campaign for Black Community Control of police in Gainesville. The Chairman also highlighted the demonstrations and events to defend Iranian students exiled by the US supported Shah. The APSP also led demonstrations in Gainesville in defense of the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979. These campaigns were carried out with militant determination and confidence in the masses of African people, despite fierce reaction and intimidation from white nationalists in the form of elected officials and gangs of anti -African/ anti- Muslim white people in the streets.

Yejide Orunmila speaks about women's liberation
Yejide Orunmila speaks about women’s liberation

The existence and growth of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, according to Chairman Omali, are indicative of this period in history in which African and other non- white peoples the world over refuse to sit back and nod their heads in a one sided discussion with white people any longer. The two generations which saw a retreat of the masses of African people participating in political resistance to their own oppression are over, and African and other colonized people are setting the terms for their own struggle.

Herdosia Bentum, Ferguson Freedom Fighter
Herdosia Bentum, Ferguson Freedom Fighter

APSP organizer of the African Internationalist Conference on the status of African Women, Yejide Orunmila lead a panel discussion on the liberation of women through the eyes of African, Indigenous and other colonized women which fully engaged the entire convention and revealed the opportunistic relationship white feminism and feminism of all stripes has played in the liberation struggle of African people. INPDUM, Ferguson freedom fighter and organizer, Herdosia Bentum gave a riveting overview of her 7 month journey from participant in the first demonstrations against the murder of Mike Brown, to meeting Chairman Omali in Ferguson in the midst of a protest which was being silenced, to becoming a leading member of the Uhuru Movement in Ferguson. Her emphasis on the number of brothers she has lost to violent colonial conditions and the prison system really drove home the need for the upcoming Conferences on African Women and a strategy to liberate all African People. In comrade Herdosia’ Bentum’s words, ” …Ferguson IS St.Louis County, and St. Louis is the whole country..” regarding the role of occupying army which the police play in the Black community.

USM Gainesville Convention 2015 - Penny Hess
Chairwoman Penny Hess of the African People’s Solidarity Committee

Chairwoman Penny Hess brought the discussion home to our responsibility in the white community to become accountable to our opportunistic history and stand in material solidarity with African liberation, if we support an end to the special oppression of women. As Yejide Orunmila said, the first step is recognizing that there is no universal condition for, ” women in general” while we still have oppressed and oppressor nations under parasitic capitalism.

Day Two

Day 2 of the Convention began with a financial update from our National Steering committee Economic Development Chair, Wendy Craig, and empowered all present to become equally effective workers for reparations to African People.

In a workshop entitled,” We are Not Charlie, Engaging in the War of Ideas”, Jesse Nevel laid out our plan for the year to exponentially grow the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and encourage as many other white people as possible to embrace the perspective of African Internationalism as their own.

USM Gainesville Convention 2015 - Johann Bedingfield
Johann Bedingfield, Outreach Chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement

Reparations in Action radio show host and coordinator Jamie Simpson detailed plans for expanding and professionalizing the show in 2015, and National Outreach Coordinator, Johann Bedingfield reported on the status and goals to standardize, diversify and increase USM outreach nationally.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of this convention was the final act of voting on our national steering committee. This body works under the leadership of the APSP and is responsible for planning and carrying out all the work of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement. We consolidated the NSC and are pleased to report that we added three new comrades to crucial areas in the committee.
The National Steering Committee of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, 2015-2016 is as follows:

  • National Chair: Jesse Nevel
  • Economic Development Chair: Dr. Wendy Craig
  • Membership Chair: Dianne Tornay
  • Outreach Chair: Johann Beddingfield
  • Political Action Chair: Jamie Simpson
  • Secretary: R.L. Starr
  • Reparations in Action” Coordinator: Jamie Simpson
  • Social Media Coordinator: Paula Lipsi Rubin
  • Website Coordinator: Daryn St. Pierre

This core leadership of the National Steering committee is consolidated and steeled in our determination, confidence and unity to continue to build a movement of white solidarity with African Liberation and Reparations Now! The Uhuru Solidarity Movement will continue to grow and build in myriad ways this year, internationally and in Gainesville, Florida, where, in early May 2015, an event is already planned titled, “Reparations for stolen Black Labor”. If you would like to get involved, attend or participate in this historical task in any way, please contact us- info@UhuruSolidarity.org, or call our national number, 1-727-888-3797.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement National Steering Committee
The Uhuru Solidarity Movement National Steering Committee — “Uhuru” means freedom!
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